The Living Canvas: Star of Texas Tattoo Expo

True Blue Tattoo's Rachel Kolar is cleaning up a blue bonnet and skull motif for her client at The Star of Texas Tattoo Expo
Rachel Kolar working on a skull and blue bonnet traditional motif.

The ninth annual Star of Texas Art Revival and Tattoo Festival opened its doors this weekend at the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. Hundreds of vendors and artists from around the country and around the world–as well as the local Austin area–drew their tattoo guns to throw down on the waiting spectators. The throng of avid tattoo-seekers and activists were not disappointed.

The Revival started Friday, January 7th and wrapped up Sunday, January 9th at 8:00pm alongside a very unassuming city-wide garage sale. The tell-tale sign of fresh ink was visible everywhere in the form of Saran Wrapped arms and legs, the skin underneath shining with B12 “goo” and Aquafore, pointing the way to the convention floor. The masses were greeted by the hum and whir of the tattoo gun. The smell of tattoo ink permeated the air, mingled with the not unpleasant scent of nachos. There were no radio stations or public music stands blaring mainstream alternative and heavy metal, dismaying and perhaps boring younger generations looking for a loud, raucous event. The atmosphere was comfortable and unstressed. Those sitting in the tattoo chair may have found the time passing slowly, but their hair was not standing on end. Many vendors and artists had their own music going at their booths. Skingraver Tattoo Studio hosted strong heavy metal, while True Blue moved steadily to the tunes on Rachel Kolar’s iPod. Most booths were content with the whir of the gun.

The event was advertised as an “all ages” so one was not surprised to see mothers with children in strollers or in slings. Teens cruised by the booths, perusing artwork and watching patrons get tattooed. There was something for everyone at the Revival, from vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles to classic and old-fashioned Hot Rod auctions. In addition to being a tattoo festival, The Star of Texas is also an art revival. Many of the pieces on gallery and booth tables were not portfolios, but sale prints and framed artwork from the shops’ various artists. Tattoo contests were held all three days, each day presenting different categories. Saturday featured best black and white, best color, best portrait, and best Texas while the best sleeve and best overall male and female were held on Sunday. Tattoo of the Day contests were held a half hour before closing. Patrons walked the aisles browsing artwork and ogling custom Choppers.

The artists and patrons of Inkrat and Crystal Skull Tattoo sit and converse at the Star of Texas Tattoo Expo in Austin, Texas.
Inkrat and Crystal Skull Tattoo shops of Japan.

Coming across fascinating and uncanny artwork was not a problem. Exhibitor portfolios littered booth tables, available for everyone to admire (or in the case of some artists, to cringe at), some of them from as far away as Tokyo, Japan (InkRat, Crystal Skull) and Rome, Italy (Sezza). Many of the portfolios were labeled with the artists’ name, such as the Misses Olivia Zephyr and Stacey Martin (who also had their own vintage portraits and banners) at Dovetail Tattoo. Artwork ranged from traditionals, inspired by Ed Hardy to family portraits, military motifs, Japanese horimono and movie villains to animal symbols and script. Sharks were very popular as well as dragons, the phoenix and tentacles that might have belonged to animals, but not necessarily. Dovetail Tattoo’s portfolios featured Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, while Skingraver’s artwork rose to new heights of the macabre, inspired by something that Lovecraft might have imagined Pickman creating.

Weekend pass holders to the event were able to experience not only the floors of the convention but also free shuttle access from the Embassy Suits to the convention grounds for no extra cost. Those interested in a single day’s excursion were stuck paying for┬áparking at the Palmer Events Center, but fortunately did not have to pay twice to get back in. Neither did those artists and patriots coming and going at the convention itself, for one day pass let the hordes come and go as they pleased, often bringing in outside food for themselves or artists and vendors shuttling supplies (food and tattoo related) from their vans or–for the locals–their shops.

For more information about The Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival and Festival, or for information about next year’s event, visit their website at


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